NEW SUPPLIERS WHO GET INTO BIG STORES
Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio
NEW YORK — Getting into department stores can be tough these days for new, little-known resources, but it is not impossible.
While many buyers are beholden to the matrix or the recommended resource list, there is still a small amount of room for new vendors. With retailers grumbling — although not for publication — about some traditional resources that are underperforming, and with the need to spruce up merchandise selections, the door for new resources is open, if only a crack.
Here’s a look at two sportswear firms that are moving through that crack with novel looks and sharp prices.
To announce its debut to buyers last November, Ordinary Mary, a better-priced casual sportswear line, sent a cheerful note with red roses, which is also the company logo.
“The reaction was great, even from the men,” said Kanuj Malhotra, president of the firm, which opened for spring selling. “Some of the buyers told me that it really made them feel good to get a rose, especially when the retailing environment has been so bleak.” The firm, at 1411 Broadway, is a spinoff of Malhotra’s family-owned $100 million private label company called Mohan Sports, based in New Delhi.
While Malhotra said the red roses were appreciated by buyers, he points out, of course, that Ordinary Mary is getting into such key accounts as Strawbridge & Clothier, Macy’s West, Woodward & Lothrop, Lord & Taylor and Dayton Hudson Corp. for other reasons.
“Ordinary Mary is filling a void in the market for something new and updated, but at a good price,” he said. “You can’t make money being commodity-oriented unless you are retailing for $19.99.”
Malhotra also pointed out that Ordinary Mary can keep prices low because it is able to tap into the Mohan Sports production facilities in India.
Ordinary Mary’s wholesale volume for the first year is expected to reach $15 million, with a projected $25 million the following year. Sportswear-inspired dresses, like rompers and fluid Empire dresses, account for about 60 percent of the line.
Dresses that mix thermal knits with yarn-dyed cotton foil are checking well, he said. Ordinary Mary’s sportswear separates include Swiss cotton oversized shirts, which wholesale for $23, and linen viscose jackets, which wholesale for $30. Prices for dresses range from $36 to $48, while pants go for $16 to $24. Blouses are $16 to $26.
The company team includes sales director Barry Wecker, who has 24 years experience, and design director Doreen Gorman, whose previous stints include contemporary firm Hype and junior company Ultra Pink. Ordinary Mary also signed up contemporary pioneer Danny Noble as design consultant.
“We are going into the market looking for fresh ideas, and we are finding that many are coming from smaller resources,” said Randie Berman, fashion merchandising director at Strawbridge & Clothier, adding that the store has increased funding to include Ordinary Mary and the like at the expense of the larger, underperforming vendors, which she declined to name.
“The look is new. They hit a lot of trends. I especially liked the retro Forties dresses,” said Jim Flemming, buyer of moderate-price dresses at Macy’s West, who bought the line for the first time for June delivery. He said he bought such items as drawstring pants and easy jackets for all Macy’s West stores.
“It is very updated and casual. Great for California,” he said.
The sportswear line will hang next to Carole Little’s Streetwear line and Jones Sport, Flemming said.
When Ilio Inc., a moderate-priced misses’ woven shirts firm, folded two years ago, former employees wasted no time in opening their own ventures. Most of these new businesses have disappeared from the scene, but at least one venture — Solutions — has flourished.
“It’s a natural success. If you have the right product, the right price and continuity, then you will do well,” said Jeff Kreindel, president of Solutions, a division of At Last Sportswear, a junior sportswear company.
Kreindel, formerly affiliated with Ilio, was hired in February 1993 by At Last Sportswear to start the new business, which started shipping its merchandise for fall 1993 selling.
When Solutions was launched, it offered only cotton and rayon shirts, as well as vests, but has now expanded to include rayon short sets, jackets, skirts and dresses. Denim accounts for 25 percent of the line. Tops represent 65 percent of the business
The merchandising strategy has helped Solutions land accounts with all Federated divisions, all May Co. divisions, Dillards, Carson Pirie Scott, and Dayton Hudson. Kreindel expects sales to approach $50 million by the end of the second year.
Solutions’ early fall line, to be in stores in July, includes velvet barn jackets, denim shirts, twill embroidered vests and corduroy hunting vests. Wholesale prices for jackets range from $17.50 to $30; denim shirts are $10 to $14; vests are $10 to $15, and skirts range from $12.50 to $17.50.
“Solutions is an excellent addition to the misses’ area,’ said Ilene Cohen of the Doneger Group. “They have great-looking vests.”
Tapping into At Last Sportswear’s infrastructure has been a key to Solutions’ success, said Kreindel. “To get into department stores, you need to have strong systems, like EDI, in place,” Kreindel said, adding that Solutions has been able to keep prices low by using At Last’s vast sourcing network. Solutions sources in Hong Kong, China, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia. The company sources its silk goods in China, its denims in Hong Kong.